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Thread: Critique Please?

  1. #1

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    Critique Please?

    Hello,

    I'm new, here. Met a couple of nice folks on the welcome thread which made me feel bold enough to ask for some critiques for a selection of photos I have posted in my album. One of my favourite subjects to photograph is the horse. I'm having a bit of a hard time with sharpness (inside and out) and plain old trying to get a decent picture when photographing in an indoor. To some extent, it may be my equipment (Canon Rebel with non IS kit lens and a 50 f1.8), but I am sure it is my lack of expertise to a larger extent. Any advice/tips would be greatly appreciated.

    Also, if I am supposed to post the photos here, please let me know. I'll get the hang of this soon. Promise

    Myra
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 8th March 2010 at 02:18 AM.

  2. #2

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    Re: Critique Please?

    Hi, Myra;

    I'll make a few suggestions, see if they make any sense.

    A number of shots (1, 2, 4) are underexposed for the subject. Do you have your camera's histogram display turned on, if it has one? You'll have to be aware of the scene when looking at the histogram, of course. For example, in the first one, the windows will show up as blinking black, but that's okay: you want those highlights to be blown out so that the darker parts will be visible.

    There does seem to be something going on with the focus on a number of the shots. For number 5, you say, "try out the 50 f1.8," so were the others done with the kit lens? It's a little hard to tell from the JPGs, but it appears as if it's often focused on the background rather than the subject, e.g., 1 and 2. You may want to put the camera on a tripod, manually focus on a subject that doesn't move (like a fence post), and then try auto-focus on the same thing and see how it does.

    For number 5, do you shoot raw? If you do, you can correct the color in the first step of processing. But if there was some sunlight as well as flourescent light ("mixed light") it may still leave you saying "I don't like the color."

    For number 6, what was the shutter speed? Of course, if the rider is moving, you'll get blur from that. The overpowering greens can be helped by using a more open aperture (smaller f-number), which will tend to blur the background. This will also help make a faster shutter speed, of course.

    You say number 9 "isn't as sharp as you'd like." The horses' faces look quite sharp to me, but you have a fairly narrow depth of field going here.

    I'd recommend:
    1. Turn on histogram, if your camera has it.
    2. Shoot raw, so you can color correct.
    3. Look at the focus where you're having problems: is it clear somewhere else in the shot? That is, is the camera focusing on the wrong spot? Maybe try some experimentation with your lens, see if autofocus seems to work well.


    Cheers,
    Rick

  3. #3

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    Re: Critique Please?

    Hi Ya,

    I think your doing really well here - your compositions seem to come naturally (which is often the hardest thing to teach) - we just need to work on the technical side a bit.

    Firat up - as Rick mentioned - you've got some exposure issues going on. Basically - in a scene with something black and something white, you'd set the exposure so that the white thing was white - the black thing was black - thus making everything else inbetween fall into place. Unfortunately ... you (or the camera) have allowed for the light coming through the windows on the indoor shots - so what you have is window light being white - other things that should be white being closer to a medium gray - and things that should be gray are black. In high contrast scenes like this you need to either use techniques to cater for the relatively high dynamic range of the scene (big fancy words for "the big range of brightnesses") - or just ket the windows "blow" (go to all white) so you can properly expose the rest of the scene - including the horse. For this scene all you'd need to do was shoot RAW mode and then use fill light with lighten the shadows.

    I had a quick play with one of the images (hope you don't mind) - if you look closely you'll see that I've used just a little fill light to lift the shadows - and I've given it a quick sharpen.

    Critique Please?

    PS: Are you working from a calibrated and profiled monitor? I see you passed the comment that you had "greens greener than green" in this image - and yet on my screen it's looking perfectly normal (in fact if anything it's a better green than I often see in images).

  4. #4

    Re: Critique Please?

    Hi Myra

    Firstly, welcome. Secondly, nice ponies.

    Regards the exposure. If you have a strong backlight you could try fill-flash on the subject (especially if it's a dark horse). That will help balance the contrasting light levels, but you will need to be close to the subject. Do you have an external flashgun? As for focus - it may be your lens, but it's probably just the movement of the animals - they always move more than you think they are. Try to get your shutter speed as fast as possible. With moveable subjects (people, animals, objects) you should take advantage of the movement if you can and get them into the best position. If you are shooting the horses for friends ask them to cooperate and get into a better position for you. For example, in the shot Colin posted the fence post appears to be coming out of the girls shoulder.

    Hope that helps.

    Nice ponies!

  5. #5

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    Re: Critique Please?

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    Do you have an external flashgun?
    Ah - that's what I forgot to mention! ... just hoping that it wouldn't spook the horses though.

  6. #6

    Re: Critique Please?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    ... just hoping that it wouldn't spook the horses though.
    I don't understand it, but most animals don't seem to be bothered by flash. Birds certainly don't, and most animals too. Anyone know about this?

  7. #7

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    Re: Critique Please?

    One of my favourite subjects to photograph is the horse.
    Hi Myra, always glad to see more horse pictures, thanks for posting.

    I think you have some really great shots here. The indoor arena ones are going to be very difficult. I used to try these back in the olden days when myself and my friends all had horses. I think the biggest help will be as Rob said to try and pick the right position. You have nice big windows in the arena so try to watch the horses as they go round and pick a position where the light hits them the way it did on the horses in your stable shots (which are very nice). There might end up being only 1 location in the arena where you can do this, or you might have to set up the jumps in such a manner that the light will hit that spot. When it comes to camera settings and technical advice, you are at the right place and the people here will help you sort that out.

    My reaction to your complaints about the greens, was the same as Colinís. They look quite natural to me, so Iím not sure what the problem is there. I take it green is not one of your favourite colours?

    Number 7 is a beautiful shot. I would be very happy with this. Great expression and composition, and to my eye quite sharp enough. No, you canít count the stitches on the halter or anything, but seriously Myra this is a lovely shot.

    Number 8 is another great shot, the only thing that would bother me with this one is the fence post and riggings over the girls shoulder. The shadow on the left (screen) side of the horse is a bit bothersome, but as you can see in Colinís rework, that is fixable. The colours look spot on and natural to me, even the greens.

    Number 9 is another winner. The mare and foal look quite sharp to me, and I would not want the background any more in focus or sharper than it already is.

    Thanks again for posting. A little work figuring out the arena shots, and I think you're well on your way. Number 7 really does blow me away. Excellent shot, I'd be enlarging that one and framing it.

    Wendy

  8. #8

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    Re: Critique Please?

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    I don't understand it, but most animals don't seem to be bothered by flash. Birds certainly don't, and most animals too. Anyone know about this?
    I'm not an expert - although I did read an interesting response to someone who suggested using a flash when photographing wild bears ... something like ... "you don't want to be using a flash when photographing bears mate" !

  9. #9

    Re: Critique Please?

    Colin, is that by any chance from Brad Hill, the other New Zealand photographer? Or Moose peterson?

  10. #10

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    Re: Critique Please?

    Quote Originally Posted by Blazing fire View Post
    Colin, is that by any chance from Brad Hill, the other New Zealand photographer? Or Moose peterson?
    No - not as far as I know.

  11. #11

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    Re: Critique Please?

    Thank you so much for all the great advice.

    Rick – Thank for your critique. Yes, all photos were taken with the kit lenses except those marked with the 50MM (I just got it a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with it.) I used it in the indoor as I read somewhere that it was good for action shots and I can’t afford a zoom with a low aperture. I also tried the kit lens, but it didn’t work for me, either. Histograms confuse me, there is just no way around that, but I will try to figure it out and use it. I think you have it dead on about the focus points. If I remember correctly, I had the AF set to all points, so the camera was picking the spot. Not smart in hindsight. I just started shooting in RAW last summer. The green actually does not look as green on this computer as it did on another. There’s another thing to “fix”

    The shutter speed for #6 was 1/1600.ISO was 400. F5.6

    Colin- Your version looks much better than mine. Thanks for taking the time to show me how it could look. I read the sharpening tutorial on the weekend and applied it to a few shots I took at the beach. (Yes, I went to the beach in March. Must be slightly nuts!) I have been avoiding the sharpening as I didn’t know which type to use or how much.

    I hate to admit it, but when you say “Set the exposure so the white is white”…. I don’t know how to do that. I have white balance settings and a choice that says “Custom”. From reading, I know a white card can be used. Is that what you mean? And the fill light. My PS2 program does not have the sliders that Elements has. I didn’t know what you meant so I did a little looking on the net. Did you mean using the blending modes and lowering the opacity? That would change the whole look, though. Can you tell I am confused?

    Carregwen – Bears and most horses must have something in common, then. No flash! I might get away with it with a very steady fellow, or for a portrait style, but generally the rider would chase me out of the arena… if they were still able to move. I tried to compensate with a lower aperture and higher shutter speed.

    Yes, that post behind the person walking is awful. So is the electric band fence. It was definitely not composed well, at all; kind of a point and shoot.


    ScoutR – Good! Someone else who likes horses. So, I should point the camera at the window, and adjust for that light? I’ve been doing it more by hit and miss. See what that got me I was standing in two different spots so as to get the horse coming towards me. I’ll ask the rider to change direction and see what I can do with the window light. Thanks!

    I am really looking forward to trying some more pictures using all of your tips. I really need to work on understanding the histograms and proper exposure for light.

  12. #12

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    Re: Critique Please?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maritimer1 View Post
    I hate to admit it, but when you say “Set the exposure so the white is white”…. I don’t know how to do that. I have white balance settings and a choice that says “Custom”. From reading, I know a white card can be used. Is that what you mean?
    Hi Myra,

    Sorry - jumping ahead of myself again

    No - nothing to do with white balance (which is a seperate issue, but auto WB will be fine for now). I'm just talking about exposure - basically, the slower the shutterspeed or the wider the aperture - or the higher the ISO, the brighter the exposure. If you're going to shoot in manual mode then you need to compare the exposure of what you've shot with what was actually there. For example, if you have a bride - complete with white wedding dress - riding a horse then the white wedding dress should appear white in the photo - but - if you under-expose the shot by a couple of stops (as you've done with the indoor shots) then the "white" wekking dress will be a medium gray wedding dress. If you under-expose by 2 more stops (so 4 in total) then the white wedding dress will now show as a black wedding dress (and probably all that will be showing is the light coming through the window). So trick is to increase the exposure (ignoring the strong back lighting coming through the windows) so that pretty much everything else looks normal. Am I making more sense yet?

    For a "quick and dirty" trick, make sure highlight alert is turned on in your camera - then keep increasing the exposure until something (other than the windows) start blinking at you ... and then back it off slightly - and you should be pretty close

    And the fill light. My PS2 program does not have the sliders that Elements has. I didn’t know what you meant so I did a little looking on the net. Did you mean using the blending modes and lowering the opacity? That would change the whole look, though. Can you tell I am confused?
    Not sure if you're shooting RAW or not - if so then the version of ACR that goes with CS2 doesn't have fill light - but - you can get "kinda" the same effect by going into image -> adjustment -> shadows/highlights. You possibly could get a similar effect using some layers and varying the opacity, but in this case there are better ways, so I won't go down that path

  13. #13

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    Re: Critique Please?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maritimer1 View Post
    Yes, all photos were taken with the kit lenses except those marked with the 50MM (I just got it a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with it.) I used it in the indoor as I read somewhere that it was good for action shots and I canít afford a zoom with a low aperture. I also tried the kit lens, but it didnít work for me, either. Histograms confuse me, there is just no way around that, but I will try to figure it out and use it. I think you have it dead on about the focus points. If I remember correctly, I had the AF set to all points, so the camera was picking the spot. Not smart in hindsight. I just started shooting in RAW last summer. The green actually does not look as green on this computer as it did on another. Thereís another thing to ďfixĒ

    The shutter speed for #6 was 1/1600.ISO was 400. F5.6
    If the shutter speed for #6 was 1/1600, the blur certainly wasn't caused by subject movement. It's probably the same focus thing that you're working on. The multiple AF points can be great for auto depth of field, but for your moving subjects, you're right: you probably want to go with the center focus point.

    The 400D has a single histogram (not separate R-G-B). If you turn it on, you'll get the "highlight alert" that Colin describes. I had a 400D until fairly recently, and I'm pretty sure that you only get that alert when the histogram is turned on.

    It may seem a lot, but I expect you'll be surprised at how quickly you're happier with what you're getting from your camera.

    Cheers;
    Rick

  14. #14

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    Re: Critique Please?

    ScoutR Ė Good! Someone else who likes horses. So, I should point the camera at the window, and adjust for that light?
    Hi Myra: Sorry, I probably did not say what I meant very well, I'll try again. I don't think you should point your camera at the window, but position yourself so that you can get the shot when the light from the window falls on the horse as it is going by. Watch out for you shadow though.

    I realize the windows are probably all the way around the arena, but depending on the time of day it will be stronger from one side. Try to arrange to use that light. Once you have the spot picked, perhaps you could get the rider to pose there while you adjust the settings and then be ready when he or she is actually riding.

    I'm no expert, and I never did get any really good arena shots, but some of the better ones were when I tried to plan it out a bit and after awhile I got to know when I would have the light I required to get anything half decent. However, if you practice all the methods that have been advised above and get really good at it, you'll be able to get the shot wherever you like. I'm still working on that, but it's a steep curve for me.

    Have fun, and hope to see more shots soon.

    Wendy

  15. #15

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    Re: Critique Please?

    Thank you for Colin, Rick and Wendy for the clarifications. I've been taking notes from this discussion that will accompany me the next time my camera goes out the door with me. I'll try making the pp adjustments, too.

    So much to learn! No chance of boredom

    Myra

  16. #16

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    Re: Critique Please?

    No worries Myra

    There are only so many things between "where we are now" and "perfection" - so I work on the theory if we improve things one little bit at a time then eventually we must get there! And the good news is the basics aren't hard to master, but they're the ones that make the biggest difference.

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